Baseball: Rainy day doesn’t dim Cats’ spirit

Steven Montero

The Wildcats don’t mind the rain.

With only four hits to its name, Northwestern managed to come out on top Tuesday after a rain delay when visiting Northern Illinois. The first pitch was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. but the players finally got into position around 8 p.m.

This isn’t the first time the Cats (15-26) managed to pull away with a victory after rain. NU’s series against Michigan began with a cancellation due to inclimate weather on April 20, and the Cats pulled off a sweep in the doubleheader that ensued to clinch a much-needed Big Ten series win.

For a team that struggles to find offensive power and a winnning rhythm, perhaps the Cats needed to take the extra time to regroup.

Yet instead of staying confined to their respective dugouts, the Cats and Huskies (13-31) came out to put on a show. The teams took turns performing skits they invented on the spot as a way to pass the time.

“With the mood before the game today, it was a very upbeat, innovative rain delay,” coach Paul Stevens said, “I didn’t have a problem with what was going on because it was giving them an opportunity to stay loose, move around and not just sit there thinking (about the time). They were engaged in the antics, and it definitely carried over into the ball game where they went into the game and got out to a lead right away…It made the entire evening go much more smoothly than if somebody would have just been sitting and watching the raindrops fall.”

Junior pitcher Luke Farrell said NU felt confident even at the end of the matchup when the Cats held a narrow one-run lead. He added that the pre-game “skits and shenanigans” with NIU really got the team going.

“As a team we just played loose and confident today on the mound and on the defensive side,” he said. “We struggled a little bit at the plate, but we had a positive outlook going into the game with the things that were happening before with the rain delay. We were kind of goofing around.”

Tuesday, NU found the ball early as redshirt junior Zach Morton gave the Cats their first hit. It would take seven innings for NU to repeat that performance, and Morton came around to score after three walks from NIU’s Tom Barry .

Morton said Barry couldn’t find the strike zone and helped NU to the one-point margin.

The middle innings saw little action as Farrel and Barry shut down each other’s teams from the second through the top of the seventh. Within that span NIU had four hits but failed to turn those hits into runs. The Huskies gave the Cats a fright in the bottom of the ninth, scoring their first run of the night to match the run NU scored at the top of the inning. Eventually, sophomore reliever Kyle Ruchim silenced any comeback with a strikeout and his seventh save of the season. Morton didn’t discount NIU’s fielding efforts.

“They had some nice saves defensively. They made good plays in the infield. Their defense defintely kept the game close and in a one-run game, two-run game…there’s not a lot of room for error. So they did a good job.”

Stevens also credited Farrell with six scoreless innings. He said the team felt confident with Farrell on the mound.

“Luke (Farrell) did a good job today. There were some balls that were hit hard and some guys made plays on both sides of the field, but (Farrell) looked as strong as I’ve seen (Farrell) all year. It was fun watching him. We didn’t anticapte throwing him as long as we did, but I will tell you watching him perform today, we wanted to see how far he’s come and where he’s at…He went out there and he put us in a position to win a ball game.”

NU continues its frenzy of contests back at home against Oakland on Wednesday, the Cats’ sixth game in the last eight days.

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